The most prominent contributions to multiple organ failure, multiple organ dysfunction syndrome, and systemic inflammatory response syndrome are described in this article. However, it is quite possible that there are others that have been missed. The problem of organ failure continues to perplex clinicians and scientists, and it contributes to fatal outcomes for patients with illnesses, infections, and injuries after operations. Although we know a fair bit about these problems, we frequently can do little about it. The best approach remains support to prevent failure.